Florida Supreme Court to Allow Emotional Support Animals in Courtroom

April 1, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

The Florida Supreme Court has recently made amendments to allow service animals and emotional support animals into the courtroom. The amended bill will help those appearing in court feel less stress during trial.

This page will cover the Supreme Court’s amendments and explain the use of emotional support animals.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that provides support, comfort, and companionship to a person who has either emotional or psychological disabilities. Emotional support animals are usually recommended to those who suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental health conditions.

For a person to have a registered ESA, they are typically prescribed by their health professional. However, they are not considered service animals and therefore have different legal protections and access as service animals.

Any animal can be registered as an emotional support animal, however, dogs and cats are the most common. The goal of an ESA is to provide a sense of calm, safety, and to reduce the stress of their owner.

Florida Supreme Court’s Decision

As of March 23rd, 2023, The Florida Supreme Court has amended its Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration to allow the presence of emotional support animals in the courtroom.

The decision was brought on by the Committee who filed a report back in November 2022 to propose to allow better accommodations to those with disabilities in the courtroom. There was a unanimous recommendation from the Board of Governors, which was developed with the input of the Animal Law Section.

The Amendment (Case No. SC22-1277) has now defined service animals as “any dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

An emotional support animal is now defined as a “companion animal that provides needed emotional support, well-being, or comfort to an individual in the forms of affection and companionship.”

In addition to the amended rule, those who are intending to seek accommodation of either a service animal or emotional support animal shall provide notification to the court. However, even failing to inform the court beforehand will not prohibit the individual from using their service or emotional support animal. Specifically, the amendment states:

“Failure to provide such advance notification in the case of a service animal will not preclude the use of the service animal where otherwise permissible under the rule, whereas lack of advance notification of an emotional support animal may result in the animal not being allowed.”

Former Second Circuit Judge James Hankinson originally requested revisions to the law, after speaking with a juror who arrived at the courthouse with their service animal.

Rule 2.540’s amendments are set to go into effect as of July 1st, 2023.

Florida Statute on Emotional Support Animals

Florida Statute Section 760.27 covers the prohibited discrimination in housing for people with disabilities. It is unlawful to prohibit any person with a disability or disability-related need for an emotional support animal. The law states that any person with a disability or disability-related need must, upon their request and approval by the housing provider, be permitted to keep an emotional support animal in his or her housing. In addition, such a person shall not be required to pay any extra compensation for an emotional support animal.

Under this provision, an “emotional support animal” is defined as any animal which does not require training to do work, perform tasks, aid, or provide therapeutic emotional support by virtue of its presence which alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.

*Note: The attorneys at Pumphrey law do not practice landlord tenant law, please seek out an experienced landlord tenant lawyer if you have been denied housing due to your emotional support animal. *

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Going to court for a criminal offense is a high-stress environment. Those who feel the need to have their emotional support animal with them should be allowed to maintain a level-head. Aside from an emotional support animal, you need a strong defense attorney on your side. The attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience representing Florida citizens. We understand the stress you are under and want to help alleviate it by fighting vigorously for your case.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, call Don Pumphrey and his team today. Our attorneys will make sure you receive top-quality criminal defense. Call us at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message to receive a free consultation regarding your case.

Written by Karissa Key

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